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The Baby Deer:
A Television Movie

Summary Copyright February 1, 2012 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.

A Baby Deer About fifty years ago I watched a movie on television when I was a young teenager. As I recall the movie was in black and white and it was either a 60-minute movie or a 90-minute movie including commercials.

Over the years I have thought about that movie several times. I would like to tell you the story as I remember it because I believe it might be of some practical value to you during these hard times we are all currently experiencing.

Brief Summary of the Deer Movie

The movie begins inside a small 10 feet by 16 feet one-room shanty or shack with a dirt floor. There is a pot-bellied stove in the shack for heating and cooking. There are three beds in the shack: one for the father, one for the mother, and one for their 12-year old daughter. The father and mother appear to be in their thirties. There are three chairs, a small kitchen table, and a lit candle on the table. There are a few crudely made shelves on one wall and an old chest-of-drawers in the corner. That is everything that is inside the small one-room shack where the three people are living.

The three people are sharing a simple meal that the mother ladles onto plates from a single pot that is in the middle of the table. They all bow their heads and the father says grace. While they are eating the father says he might have some good news to tell them tomorrow when he gets home from work. A little later they extinguish their one candle and they all get into their individual beds.

The next day the father opens the door and he enters the shack with a big smile on his face. He tells his family that the bank has accepted their life savings as a partial deposit on a small farm about twenty miles from the city. They will have to grow corn as a cash crop and use the money from the sale of that corn at the end of the summer to make the rest of the down payment deposit required by the bank so they can keep the farm.

The following day the family loads their few belongings into the back of a mule drawn wagon. As the family climbs onto the one seat at the front of the wagon the camera zooms back and you can clearly see the shack the family was living in. You can also see several of the nearby shacks. Each shack has a flat shed type roof, one door, and one window. All the shacks are very small. There are gaps between the boards in all the shack walls through which the wind and the cold and the insects could easily enter any shack and make life miserable for whoever was living there. And the shacks are only about three feet apart which is just barely enough space for a person to walk between the shacks.

The next scene shows the family unloading their few possessions into a well-built two-room log cabin: one bedroom plus a combined living area and kitchen. The parents move their stuff into the bedroom and the daughter puts her bed in one corner of the large living area. The cabin has a wood floor. There are windows in all the walls and there is a large functional stone fireplace on one of the side walls of the cabin. The fireplace has a built-in baking area and it has iron bars that swing into and out of the fireplace that can be used to hang pots for cooking.

As the family is unloading the wagon the camera pivots so you can see a nearby field overgrown with weeds that is surrounded by a simple wood fence. There is also another smaller field on the other side of the cabin. A small barn is near the cabin and a hand-operated water pump and water trough is between the cabin and the barn.

The father spends his first few days plowing their two fields using their mule to pull the plow. The mother and daughter spend their first few days preparing food for the family to eat, and cleaning the inside of the cabin and the barn. At one of their evening meals the mother asks how much longer before their seeds arrive. Her husband says he thinks it will be tomorrow. He also mentions that when he was a boy on his parent's farm that they always had their seeds planted in the ground by this time of year. The mother says she never thought about these things before because she had always lived inside the city until now.

The next day the father is seen unloading a few small burlap bags from the back of the wagon. He tells his wife that their garden seeds have arrived but their corn seed has been delayed. Later you see the entire family planting their vegetable seeds in their vegetable garden near their barn. The vegetable garden is about one-half the size of the corn field that has been plowed but that field has not yet been planted. As they are planting their vegetable seeds the farmer reminds his wife that they will lose their farm unless they can grow a corn crop to sell for cash and that it is already past the best time for planting corn. This makes you feel anxious for the family because you do not want them to lose their farm and be forced to move back into the slum they just left.

A Baby Deer A few days later the daughter bursts into the cabin crying. She tells her parents she has found an injured baby deer in the woods a short ways from their cabin. She begs her parents to come and look at the deer. The parents follow the girl a short distance into the woods. There on the ground is a small deer with an injured foreleg. The deer tries to stand up but it can't. The girl begs her daddy to help the deer. Her father calmly explains to her that the deer is a danger to their farm because the deer will eat their crops and they could starve to death during the winter. The girl keeps crying and then she begs her mother to help the deer. The mother feels sad for the deer so she tells her husband that they should help the deer until it is well enough to walk and then they will release it back into the woods. The father says, "No." But the young girl and her mother keep insisting until the father finally agrees with the understanding that it will only be for three or four weeks until the deer can walk again. Both the wife and daughter quickly agree.

The next scene shows the deer lying on some straw inside the barn with a stick wrapped to its foreleg with some bandages. There is a pan of water and some hay near the deer so it can eat and drink without having to stand up.

A few days later the farmer is seen unloading several large burlap sacks of corn seed from the back of the wagon. The farmer tells his wife that if they can get all the corn seed into the ground immediately then there is a chance that it will mature and it can be harvested before the winter weather arrives. This gives you some hope that the family will be able to keep their farm but you know there is still a chance they may lose everything if their corn crop fails.

About two weeks later the farmer is standing by the wood fence around his corn field looking at the tiny seedlings poking up through the ground. The farmer is smiling. His wife comes and stands beside him and then she asks him to come to the barn with her. When they get to the barn their daughter has fallen asleep beside the deer and the baby deer has its head in the little girl's lap. It is a heart-warming scene. But the farmer's smile has turned into a frown.

The family's vegetable garden and their corn crop continue to grow. The deer continues to heal and it can stand on its legs for a few minutes each day. The little girl is seen hugging and kissing the young deer. But the deer has grown some and it is no longer a baby.

The day finally arrives when the farmer removes the stick and the bandages from the deer's foreleg. The deer can now stand on its own legs. The farmer tells his wife and daughter that it is time for the deer to be turned loose in the woods. The young girl starts crying uncontrollably and she begs her mother to let her keep the deer as a pet. The father tries to explain that it is impossible to convert most wild animals, including deer, into domestic pets. The deer will always have a wild nature and it simply cannot understand the concept of a domestic farm animal and it cannot be trained to become a pet. The young girl and her mother both disagree and they firmly insist that the deer not be taken into the woods and abandoned. The conversation because extremely tense and the father gradually realizes that he runs the risk of permanently jeopardizing his relationship with his daughter and his wife if he does agree to their request. Therefore he agrees but he tells them both that the first time the deer does any damage to their homestead then the deer will have to go. The mother and daughter both instantly agree.

The corn has now grown to about one-half of its normal height but it hasn't rained in two weeks. The farmer and his wife look at their corn field with sad faces. The farmer tells his wife that if it doesn't rain soon then the corn will not mature before the winter weather arrives and they will have no corn to sell and they will lose their farm. A tear runs down the wife's cheek.

The next scene is at night and everyone is in bed asleep. A bright flash of light illuminates the inside of the cabin and a few seconds later you hear the sound of thunder. Another bright flash and more thunder. The farmer and his wife come out of their bedroom and open the front door of their cabin. As they look outside the rain begins to fall. The family farm has been saved. The farmer and his wife close the front door and return to their bedroom.

It rains the entire next day. The following day the farmer and his wife examine their corn field and it is thriving. There is a good chance the corn will mature before winter and they will be able to keep their farm.

A few days later the farmer and his wife walk out of their cabin and look at their vegetable garden. The deer is standing in the middle of the garden and it has destroyed about one-fourth of the almost mature garden vegetables by taking a small bite out of some of them and by walking on some of them and by pulling some of them up by their roots. The farmer walks into the cabin and returns with his single-shot rifle. But now the young girl is standing beside her mother. When the girl sees the rifle in her father's hands she runs over to the deer and she puts her arms around the deer's neck. The young deer is now just a little bit taller than the girl. The girl begs her father not to kill the deer. Her father reminds her that she agreed that if the deer damaged their farm then the deer would need to be killed. Now the girl starts crying and begging her mother to stop her father from killing the deer. The mother then stands between her husband and the deer. She explains that their daughter has become attached to the deer and that is now her pet. He can't kill the deer. Then she tells her husband that there are probably enough garden vegetables left to get them through the winter but they will have to eat sparingly every day. But they can still survive the winter although all three of them will probably lose a little weight. Then she promises to tie the deer to a fence post near the barn so it cannot do any further damage to their farm. The girl begs her father not to kill the deer. The farmer is once again caught between doing what he knows is best but which he also knows will permanently ruin his relationship with his wife and daughter. Therefore the farmer once again agrees to their request and the deer is tied with some rope to a fence post near the barn so it can get to the water trough and to some hay near the barn.

The days pass and the vegetables in the family garden are all harvested and the mother and the daughter preserve the vegetables in canning jars. The corn in the field is still about two or three weeks from being mature enough to harvest. But it is still at least a month before the cold weather is due to arrive so if everything goes well the family can still keep their farm.

One morning while the farmer is eating the last of his breakfast his wife comes back into the cabin crying. He asks her what is wrong but she can't stop crying so she can tell him. Therefore he walks outside and looks around. The rope that was tied around the deer's neck has been chewed in half by the deer. The farmer then turns and looks towards his corn field and he sees the deer standing in the corn field. From where the farmer is standing he can see that the deer has trampled and destroyed at least one-third or more of their corn crop. He quickly walks back into the cabin and gets his rifle. He walks over to the wood fence that surrounds his corn field and he fires one shot into the deer's heart. The deer drops to the ground dead. The young girl then comes out of the cabin and she sees the dead deer and she starts crying. At this moment you feel sorry for everybody: the farmer, his wife, and their daughter.

Some time passes and you see the farmer getting down from his wagon. The back of the wagon is empty. In the distance you can see that all the remaining corn in the field is gone. The wife comes out of the cabin and the farmer tells her that he was able to sell the corn that survived for a fair price but it was not enough money to make the rest of the down payment on their farm. He also tells his wife that the bank told him that the bank would accept the money from the sale of that corn and the money he originally deposited on the farm as rent for the time they spent living on the farm. But they will have to leave the farm by the end of the week.

The last scene of the movie shows the farmer, his wife, and their daughter sitting on the front seat of their wagon with their few meager possessions in the back of the wagon. The farmer stops the wagon in front of a shack in the slum area of town. The shack in front of them is similar to their original shack but it appears to be in worse shape than the shack they had when the movie began.

The Message of the Deer Movie

There were only three people in the entire movie. Therefore let's examine what happened from the perspective of each of these three individuals.

  1. The Father: The father had grown up on a farm and he had enough experience to know what should be done and what should not be done. He knew that helping the baby deer was the wrong thing to do. But he also knew that if he did not help the deer then he would permanently damage his relationship with his wife and his daughter. He had two options:
    • Not Help the Deer: He might be able to keep his farm but he would be despised by his wife and daughter.
    • Help the Deer: There was a small chance he might be able to keep the farm and the love of his wife and daughter.
    The father selected the most logical option. There was nothing else he could do.

  2. The Mother: The mother loved her husband and her daughter. However, she had no previous farming experience. Therefore she should have had more respect for her husband's knowledge about the things that should be done and the things that should not be done on a farm. But her love for her daughter caused her to ignore her better judgment and she listened to her heart instead.

  3. The Daughter: The 12-year old daughter was at the age when her normal female emotions needed an outlet. She had been born in a slum and she had lived in a slum where the only living creatures she came in contact with were flies, insects, and rats. She was instantly attracted to the baby deer and she cannot be blamed for responding with the emotional tenderness that she felt. If she had been denied this opportunity to help one of God's creatures that was in distress then she may have grown up to become a hard-hearted adult. Or it may have had no lasting impact on her life. In a situation such as this nobody knows what the long-term impact of this decision would have had on her.
I do not believe it is appropriate to second guess the decisions made by the three actors in this movie. Nor do I believe that it would be of any use to guess what the outcome would have been if a different course of action had been selected. This was nothing more than a movie and it should be appreciated in the context that its author and it director wished to convey to us their audience.

However, there are some general observations that can be made based on the events that occurred in the deer movie.

  1. During hard times your actions should be based on common sense and on your emotions. Both should guide you instead of using only one or the other.

  2. If a domestic farm animal is in need of assistance then you should probably help it if you have the knowledge and the ability.

  3. If a wild animal is in need of assistance then you should probably allow God to assume the responsibility for its future well-being.

  4. If you do not have any prior experience in a specific area then it would probably be wise to carefully consider the advice of someone who does have several years of experience in that area.

  5. Advice from individuals who have no experience or very limited experience in an area is probably not as useful as advice from someone who has many years of experience in that area. It is interesting to note that a lot of people have very strong opinions about things in which they have absolutely no hands-on experience but who speak as if they were experts on that topic.

  6. If you know beyond any doubt that the person who is giving you advice truly cares about you, and that person is extremely knowledgeable in the area in which the advice is being offered, then you should carefully consider the advice before you make your final decision.

  7. The long-term impact of a poor decision during hard times can have serious consequences for many years into the future. Therefore give all your important decisions the careful consideration they deserve before you decide one way or the other.
A few final comments:

If you have never lived on a farm or in the country then you should be emotionally prepared for some of the events as depicted in the deer movie.

During hard times seed sales increase and the time to deliver seeds also increases. Expect delays in the delivery of your seed orders.

Crop failures are still extremely common worldwide.

If you are depending on the income from your crop sales to pay your farm mortgage then you could be disappointed. At least one person in your family should have an independent non-farm related job with a steady income that can get your family through a difficult crop year.

Just three or four deer can destroy a huge field of crops in one night. Do not be deceived by the cute appearance of a deer. A deer is a vegetarian and it can destroy your garden vegetables and your fruit trees and you could starve to death. (Note: If it is legal in your area then you should not wait until after some deer have destroyed an entire summer of work before you decide to address your deer problem.)

Be prepared to set your personal feelings aside when it comes to eating the flesh of any animal. It is amazing that people will buy a chicken at the grocery store or at a restaurant and eat it without giving it a second thought. But these same people will absolutely refuse to eat a chicken raised on their own farm because they cannot force themselves to eat "Henrietta." Do not make your farm animals your pets. Most farm animals are food and they are not pets. Do not let your children become attached to any farm animal that is being raised for food.

If you are not personally able to kill and butcher a farm animal then you should not think poorly about someone who can kill and butcher a farm animal or a wild game animal. These people are not evil. I have done these jobs in the past, and I can still do these jobs today, and I am not an evil person.


The basic plot for the above movie has been used by a variety of short story authors and screen play writers for a very long time. Changes are made to the characters, to the problems they encounter, and to the time period in which the story takes place. The most popular and well known version of the above plot was made into a movie and it was filmed in color in 1946 by MGM and it was called "The Yearling." It was based on a book written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. The 1946 color movie won several academy awards.

The black and white movie I remember seeing in the 1960s was different than the 1946 color movie filmed by MGM. When I wrote the above summary of the movie I saw I was not trying to create a "new version" of an old story. My basic objective in writing the above summary was to encourage people to carefully consider their decisions if they are thrust into a new environment and to not simply rely on strategies that may have been successful in a totally different environment.


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